What are the Most Effective Social Media Strategies for Student Housing
Social media on campus is everywhere – from campus-wide announcements to Snapchat classroom projects to RA community events. So how can student housing operations stand out and build excitement for student residents on social media? We interviewed Carrie Campbell, Senior Public Relations Coordinator for University Housing at University of Georgia (UGA), and Danielle Dreeszen, Assistant Director – Communications for Louisiana State University (LSU), about their social media strategies and here’s what we learned.
Social Media Channels and Their Audiences
Both UGA and LSU keep their audiences in mind and constantly assess the users’ needs for each social media channel. For example, students are moving away from Facebook, so the audience for Facebook is primarily parents now.
LSU has found success with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Instagram and Twitter are the primary channels to interact with both current and prospective students. Danielle said, “I think Instagram is one of the most successful channels to reach students. It shows a true snapshot into what life on campus and in the department are like. I have also found success posting normally on the Instagram feed and using the story feature.” Pinterest is used primarily during room selection and the months leading up to move-in day.
One social media channel that hasn’t been successful for LSU is Snapchat. Although many students use it on a daily basis, students have expressed that they don’t always like to follow university or department accounts. “Official accounts, if not being used correctly, take away some of the organic benefits that students enjoy with Snapchat,” said Danielle.
“I think Instagram is one of the most successful channels to reach students. It shows a true snapshot into what life on campus and in the department are like. I have also found success posting normally on the Instagram feed and using the story feature.”
UGA uses Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and Snapchat, with each platform having an overlapping core audience and purpose:
- Facebook and Twitter are mainly to engage with parents, families and alumni
- YouTube and Pinterest are used for prospective and first-year students to show things visually like dorm rooms
- Instagram and Snapchat are also used for prospective and first-year students to promote current programs and events, and to show content generated by their peers
Both schools continuously monitor the needs of their audiences and adapt as the trends change.
Posting and Promoting Content
One challenge that institutions face is that students may not want to engage with housing or other departments on social media. To combat this, schools are posting not only housing content, but they’re also engaging with students and posting content from other departments, clubs and student organizations.
Posting Housing Content
Given the cyclical nature of housing, student housing operations post important housing dates, events and information based on the time of year. Spring and summer are a very big time of year for student social media postings as students are getting geared up and excited about the upcoming school year. Some of the popular topics include things like what to bring to campus, what rooms look like and important dates. Pinterest boards and videos are good ways to give students a visual idea of what things are like on campus.
UGA recently hired student vloggers to document their experiences living on campus on their YouTube channel called The Dawg Vlog. “In our first calendar year of using student vloggers, we increased our YouTube subscribership by more than 3000%,” said Carrie.
“In our first calendar year of using student vloggers, we increased our YouTube subscribership by more than 3000%.”
When students are being accepted in fall, LSU will engage students by saying congratulations or welcome to the LSU family. This helps with university recruitment and makes students aware of social media accounts. As for other times of the year, Danielle stated, “There is always an audience to talk to. When current students are finishing the school year and leaving for the summer, future residents are getting their room assignments and starting to think about moving to campus.”
UGA Housing Instagram Page
Sharing Other University Information
Both universities also engage other departments, clubs and student organizations by reposting and liking their content, which helps keep student engagement. For example, UGA will repost event and program promotions that would appeal to their audiences, and they make sure to tag other groups if they’re partnering with them or posting something that’s related. A few examples are the RA staff at a team-building event with Recreational Sports and the compost program that’s in partnership with the Office of Sustainability. “We not only grow our followers by becoming a resource of information and storytelling, but those partners benefit by their exposure to the student body on a larger scale than they’re used to,” said Carrie.
In addition, UGA likes and reposts events and programs from campus partners such as career fairs, special dining events, guest speakers and especially programs that support potentially marginalized populations such as events hosted by the LGBT or Disability Resource Centers, and student organizations within Multicultural Services and Programs. Carrie stated, “It’s an opportunity to appeal to those student populations and to assert an expectation of community support for all students.”
“We not only grow our followers by becoming a resource of information and storytelling, but those partners benefit by their exposure to the student body on a larger scale than they’re used to.”
LSU also shares content from other areas of the university. Examples include:
- When housing events and notices are slow, they’ll post information about academic support because that’s when students are starting to get their grades
- Information about the health center when it seems like the flu might be going around
Danielle said, “It helps students see the housing social media accounts as platforms they can check any time to get relevant news and updates.”
Special Programs Using Social Media and Leveraging Resident Social Media
LSU recently found success with a series of Facebook Live events for different topics related to incoming students, such as packing, talking to your roommate, getting involved and move-in day, as well as live tours of halls. Danielle said, “We had dozens of comments during the live stream and over a thousand views within a few days after the video was published.” Danielle thought it might be intimidating at first to go live, but she found that it’s actually very simple to do. “As long as you have a set plan of what your live video is going to consist of, and advertise it in advance, you should be successful!” she said.
This school year, LSU plans to leverage organic content from students with “Student Takeovers,” which involve letting students take over the Instagram account for a few days each month. The students will be given topics and then generate content based on those topics.
In 2016, UGA implemented a #OneUGA Twitter series, which was an in-person and Twitter-based monthly conversation series focused on diversity and inclusion topics, each led by a different student organization. The series was so successful that they won a best-in-show award from the Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (ACUHO-I). Since then, Twitter engagement dwindled–from more than a million impressions to fewer than 20–with no changes in format. This year, UGA will use a different format for the #OneUGA series. “Our current plan includes a monthly in-person discussion, which we’ll lead up to with posts on Instagram of students who have stories to tell related to that month’s topic,” explained Carrie.
Resources Behind Social Media
What does it take to run a social media strategy? LSU employs one staff member for daily social media, content and management, and other staff members pitch in to cover big events. Student staff contributes during special events like a table site or large social program. LSU collects data from Facebook through its platform, Twitter using Hootsuite and Instagram manually.
UGA has one staff member who spends half her time on social media. UGA collects data using the native analytics for each platform and they use Hootsuite for scheduling and tracking keywords and hashtags.
For More Information
Social media is a great way to reach new and existing students, parents and alumni. We hope this blog post has given you some new ideas for your social media strategy.
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